Anthony Bourdain’s suicide has shaken me.
I feel as though I have lost a friend. I think a lot of his fans feel this way.
He was a gifted writer who opened up the whole world to many of us. His words, both written and spoken, took us to places we likely never will be able to go.
Bourdain had a rare gift for storytelling, and an even rarer ability to make readers (and later, viewers) connect with him.
My late son introduced me to him after he read “Kitchen Confidential.”
“This is what my job is like,” Mike said after reading the book. “This is life in a restaurant kitchen.”
Mike loved the chaos of restaurant work. One night, months after he’d had to give up work because of his illness, while we watched Bourdain doing a double shift as a line cook, Mike sighed.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I miss that,” he said.
After my son’s death, it seemed Anthony Bourdain was a connection to Mike’s spirit. His love of travel and his respect for the foods of other cultures, his curiosity, his passion and his abiding love for meat in tubular form, all reminded me of my son.
He was a recovering addict, and I have no way of knowing whether his addiction contributed to his death. Mike was a recovering addict, too, but his recovery gave him reason to live.
I’m not angry at Bourdain for taking his life and depriving us of his wisdom. Perhaps I should be, but that’s not what I’m feeling.
You see, I’ve squirreled away extra pain pills, just in case. I’ve walked close to the edge of a precipice and thought about taking that one extra step, or considered turning the steering wheel toward a bridge abutment at 70 miles an hour.
I’ve battled depression my entire life, and after my son’s unnecessary death, I seriously considered checking out of this life.
Yes, I know I still have much good in my life, and it’s concentrating on that that’s kept me here. But it is a real struggle some days, and the struggle gets to be too much for some people, as it obviously did for Anthony Bourdain.
Don’t accuse me of being selfish for considering suicide because you don’t know the pain I endure some days. It is not a selfish act; it is an act of desperation, a way out of the unendurable. You can’t know what that’s like if you haven’t been there.
Suicide rates have gone up 25 or 30 percent since 2000 in this country. Think about that. It’s not happening in other countries, not in places where people have hope that their lives will improve. But we in this country are subjected to jobs that don’t pay half of what it takes to live, to denial of medical care, to crippling debt just for trying to get through college. Too many of us have no hope of a better future, and that becomes unendurable for increasing numbers of us.
But even for people who seem to have everything, as Bourdain did, can suffer indescribable pain. You can only do that for so long.
You don’t know who among your friends and family members is in pain. I have been surprised any number of times by the confession of someone I love that they have crept up to the edge of that same abyss.
When thoughts about dying come into my head, I think about the work I’m doing to try to make this country a better, more just place. Working with Rev. William Barber in the Moral Monday Forward Together Movement, and now the Poor People’s Campaign, has given me hope that things will improve, even as I watch them deteriorate.
Antidepressants did little to alleviate my depression, and therapy did even less. I combat it by staying busy as an activist, by staying connected to the people I love, by trying to make the world a little more just.
Still, there are moments I think about dying, about being at peace, being reunited with my son and my sister.
But, so far, I have been able to remember that on some level I still want to be here. I want to make a difference, and I can’t do that if I’m dead.
That’s what has worked for me. So far.
The worst enemy of a person with depression is isolation, and one of the hallmark symptoms of depression is isolation. We hunker down, pour a glass of wine — or two, or three — and stew in our own juices. The more we think about our misery, the more likely we are to end our lives.
So, if you know someone who might need a little encouragement, a little love, a listening ear, no matter how glamorous their life seems to be, reach out. You might be the connection to this life that keeps them here.
The suicide prevention hotline number is 800-273-8255.
The online chat address is: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
BOTH are available 24 hours everyday!